Church Blog

Preparing for Sunday at Home

Brothers and sisters,

As we prepare ourselves for worship on Sunday morning, here are a few pieces of information that you will need and a time to set aside to ensure that you are ready to facilitate worship at home and to listen to the sermon on Facebook live.

  1. Here is your Home Liturgy for the Lord’s Day, March 22. Download it and print it out. There are two links to familiar songs for you to sing along with at home if you need the assistance. You will follow the order of worship on your home, starting at 10:45, ready to join in with a live sermon at 11:00.
  2. If you already have a Facebook account, make sure that you follow the church page: 
  3. If you do not have a Facebook account, this may be a time to have one for the sake of keeping in touch with each other. Otherwise, you can still watch the live by following the same link, then clicking “not now” and then  expanding the video to full screen. Here is a short video showing you how.

In preparation, I will go “live” tonight (Friday, March 20) at 7:00 pm to speak about the “shelter at home” situation, what is happening with SMCC and to give you a chance to make sure you can login. Please login to practice before Sunday.

Please comment if you are able or send an email to let me know that it is working for you.

Pastor Robert

All public gatherings of SMCC, including Lord’s Day worship, will be canceled until further notice.

Brothers and sisters,

Your elders met (digitally) to pray, talk and weep together last night concerning our response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As you know, we have wanted to act with a bold compliance in this situation. While some turned up the intensity to 11 immediately, we have taken matters slowly and prayerfully. But as a result of last night’s meeting and the latest information on hand, we have decided that…All public gatherings of SMCC, including Lord’s Day worship, will be canceled until further notice.

The present suffering

In recent days, governing agencies have specified their orders regarding public gatherings. The CDC is now restricting public gatherings to less than 50 with recommendations to less than 10.  The state has ordered all over 65 to “self isolate” and counties on each side of us have already issued “shelter in place” orders. We fully expect SLO county to follow suit. 

Let’s be clear, this is the responsibility that God has given to the governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-7). If the government were to tell us we cannot meet to preach the Gospel and administer the ordinances, we would not comply with that order. However, this is not that kind of order. It has been 100 years since the authorities have made this kind of request to churches. We do not have to like it or even agree with it to comply.

It is no small thing to not gather for worship on the Lord’s Day. It is the command of Scripture (Heb. 10:24-25), the practice of the church (1 Cor. 16:2) and it is our great joy. It is truly an hour that is not like every other hour. This is where God feeds us with both Word and ordinance. This is where we see each other’s faces and share in the fellowship of the saints. This is where the Spirit of God uses the Word of God in the mouths of the people of God to shape our hearts. It is a true loss to not gather and it cannot be substituted by any other means. Let’s mourn together what we will be missing.

The future glory

While there is no substitute for gathering on the Lord’s Day, we are grateful for the means that God has given us to stay connected. We are urging you to take advantage of them. 

First, let’s be clear. A recorded sermon is not a sermon, a video recorded worship service is not a worship service and a church cannot “gather” digitally. These are theologically incorrect, a dangerous substitution and a dismissal of the true loss, fear and loneliness that we are experiencing in this crisis.

In the next few days, we will send to you a service order for Sunday morning to be used in your home. It will include a “Call” for someone to read, a long reading to do and guidance on how to pray for you family, your church and your community. I (Pastor Robert) will speak to you on Facebook Live from Romans 8:18-25. (As your elders discussed whether this was a good time to diverge from the current series in order to focus on the situation at hand, Bob Taylor opened a Bible and read, I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. We all realized that God has gone ahead of us.) I will conclude with a prayer and a benediction. We are consider how we might continue to participate in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. 

I hope you feel the loss of what we are missing and, at the same time, feel the comfort of the Holy Spirit in your heart and in your people. I hope you feel the weight of what you are doing when you speak the Call to Worship and pray for your household. Fathers, or head of household, this is a holy obligation. It is not to be taken lightly or to be taken to downplay what happens on a Sunday when we gather. This is a wartime effort and these are wartime measures.

You will hear again from us regarding midweek programs and ways in which we can perhaps encourage one another, pray and read together through digital media during the week. If that is something you would like to participate in, please reach out.

Keeping in Touch

In order to keep in touch, please ensure that you are participating in our current means of communication.

  1. Download the SMCC smartphone app.  App for AndroidApp for Iphone. When notifications come from the church, open them. This is the primary, family only, means of our communication, connection and encouragement right now. Click on the links to read, pray and sing along with us.
  2. Ensure that you can login to mysmcc. This is our church database where you can get phone numbers to call others in the church. And please call people. Who? Whoever you think of. What do you say? Say, I miss you, Ive been thinking of you, I can’t wait until we can worship together again.
  3. Do you receive the all church email? Please reach out to us so you can be included.
  4. Follow SMCC on FB and IG as a means of encouragement and comment.
  5. Please be regular with your giving as we are separated. This still remains our family responsibility and privilege. You can give to your regular offering and to the Help Fund through online giving. People will be needing our financial during this time.

Lastly, how can you pray?

  • Pray for the health and safety of our “at risk” brothers and sisters in the church, in our families and in our neighborhoods.
  • Pray for God’s mercy on our nation. Pray that repentance and faith would be our national response to this crisis.
  • Pray for the mission of this church, that at every table in every household, we bear fruit for generations while under the pressure of today.

Here is a prayer from the Lutheran Book of Prayer for times of Crisis. My family has used this prayer book for many years. May it bring comfort to you today.

Heavenly Father, I come to Your throne of mercy, bowed down and wearied by the weight of suffering and disaster visited on our country. I beg You to protect this nation in our hour of need. I acknowledge my trespasses before You and do not deny either my own transgressions of Your holy Law or the sins of other citizens of my homeland. We are laden with iniquity, but You call us to Your forgiveness, salvation, hope, and life. Turn the hearts and minds of all to You, that they might find peace through the cleansing of Jesus’ blood. Let me not be confounded or dismayed, so that I, a child of your grace, may courageously speak to this needy world the hope that is within me. Make me an instrument of Your peace in a world of conflict, a witness to the power of faith in the world lost in unbelief, and a bearer of the joy that overcomes the sorrow of a fallen world. Grant to the leaders of this nation and all the nations of the world wise counsel, calm thinking, and unselfish aims. Amid the tumult of disaster, build Your kingdom and turn even more souls to Yourself. Because of Your grace, we are not altogether lost but find peace and forgiveness in You. Oh Lord, give me the grace to seek You, trust You, and confess You; in Jesus’s name. Amen.

Pastor Robert for your elders.

Corona Virus/ Covid 19 and SMCC

Brothers and Sisters,

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Romans 8:15

With the continued escalation of fears and concerns over the Corona Virus (Covid 19), we wanted to address some of those concerns and how they relate to our church family. This plan is based upon the prudent wisdom offered to us by health authorities, state and federal government, the EFCA and our own local officials. See the latest from SLO County Public Health Dept. here.

First of all, our God rules heaven and earth and that includes Santa Margarita. There is not one square inch of this earth over which God does not declare, “mine!” While we seek to be wise, we must not be governed by fear as so many are, even in our own county. We show that we are children of the one true God when we act in faith rather than respond in fear.

At the same time, there is reason for real concern, particularly for our friends and neighbors who are at higher risk. By taking extra precautions we do two things, we help to stop the spread of the virus from person to person and we also flatten, or spread out over time, the spread of the virus. An illustration of “flattening the spread” is that having one million people contract the virus over 12 months is a completely different situation than having one million people contract the virus with a six-week period.

The following is our current plan of action and we will keep you updated on any changes.

  1. We will worship on the Lord’s Day until we are formally instructed not to. This is the command and the privilege of God’s people and we are God’s people in this place.
  2. We ask that you take all personal precautions possible.
    • Follow the personal hygiene plan suggested: wash your hands frequently, cough or sneeze into a tissue of into your sleeve and generally avoid shaking hands for the time being.
    • If you are sick, stay home. We are looking into a live stream option or else the sermon will available online or through the SMCC App Sunday eveningApp for AndroidApp for Iphone. Perhaps take the time to listen to the book of Romans, it is surprisingly short and would good for your soul.
    • If you are at risk, stay home. SLO County Dept of Health defines tiger risk as those over age 60 and those who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, or are immunocompromised.
  3. We will make the following modifications on Sunday morning.
    • Greeters will not offer you a hand or a bulletin. Bulletins will be sitting on a table for you to pick up yourself.
    • Donuts will either not be available or will be served by gloved volunteers.
    • Communion will be offered in dual cups (bread below and juice above) and you will come to the front to retrieve it before we partake together. We will have a further solution by next Sunday if needed.
    • Offering plates will not be passed, but an option for giving your offering will be available in the back of the room or you can give online as always. This may be a good time to consider that option.

It is no coincidence that this Sunday’s passage reminds us that we have not been given a spirit of fear. Our God is overseeing all things for our good. Please pray for your church, your neighbors and our nation during this time of crisis. Pray that God would raise up His church, starting here in Santa Margarita.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to one of your elders, please do not hesitate to reach out.

For God’s glory and your good,
Pastor Robert for your Elders

Men’s Retreat

Join SMCC men for a 4 day retreat at Mt. Hermon this October 4-6.

For more information.

Contact the Church Office (805) 438-5011 or Dave Redel to register.

“We” Preach

My good friend and mentor, Dr. Kenton Anderson, came to visit last week and brought grace and encouragement to me. A few years ago he and I wrote a piece together for Preaching Magazine that we called Preaching Through Your Church. It details much of what we mean when we say that “we preach,” preaching is a communal activity.

When we preach, we don’t just preach to our church but through our church. We preach in order to create conversations that follow in small groups, at dinner tables and in coffee shops. What we offer from the pulpit needs to be suitable to be served at the table as a palatable meal to our people. These are the people we walk with daily and the ones who will walk the good news we preach into every corner of our community while we are home recovering from the sermon. 

Preaching Through Your Church

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

As we quoted on Sunday…We were made for the glory of God.

We were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things; and when we trade that treasure for images, everything is disordered. The sun of God’s glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. And when it does, all the planets of our life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is dis- placed, everything flies apart. The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center.

Read more for yourself.

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, John Piper

This Resurrection Life

 Living as justified men and women in a post resurrection world.

This Sunday, April 28, we begin a new sermon series exploring our identity in Christ. We are justified men and women because Jesus has been raised from the dead.

Who are you? How do you identify yourself?  An identity is what you identify with; you identify with your family; you identify with your politics; you identify with your ethnicity; you identify with your style. Christians identify wholly with Jesus Christ. When God the Father looks at your past, he sees the past obedience of Jesus. When God the father looks at your present, he sees the present righteousness of Jesus. When God the father looks at your future, he sees the future glory of Jesus.

But we, looking at ourselves in the mirror, do not see any of these things. Why? Because we are ignorant, unbelieving, and unrighteous, but mostly ignorant. (The word just means, we do not yet know).

We will get to the way we become actually righteous in Romans chapter 6 to 8 (most likely in January) but let me give you the long and short of it right now. God has declared you justified, actually righteous, through faith in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. That is, God has credited the death of Jesus for your debt and the life of Jesus for your present wealth – a down payment of what is to come in the Spirit.

In reality, I still see sin in my body. How will God get the members of my flesh and blood body to match the righteous declaration in Christ? That question is asked in Romans 6. Romans 7 answers, “not by law!” That agonizing chapter is a man trying to be transformed by external works and it only results in a greater awareness of his condemnation. Chapter 8 concludes the section by teaching us that we become actually holy by walking in the Spirit; by a true transformation, from the inside out, over time.

I am well aware that when I say, “walk in the Spirit,” some of you immediately take your seatbelt off and move freely about the cabin. The word Spirit means anything beyond the Bible, in your thinking. Don’t do that. Please, for God’s sake. Literally, for God’s sake. We will see in Romans 8 that being led by the Spirit or walking in the Spirit is a way of talking about God empowered obedience in the present world. So, that’s a simple summary of how we become actually more and more righteous, more and more like Christ.

In the next six weeks, we will address our ignorance and unbelief or positively, we will learn the truth versus the lie that we may have a more full faith in Jesus Christ from first to last.

The Scriptures have much to say about who you are, what you are for and where you were going. It is found within the story of sin and redemption, that is, the story of how God remakes the world through Jesus Christ. 

I want to look at six biblical relationships of man that tell us who we really are. The aim is to leave you justified in Christ, identifying fully and totally in Christ. To every question, “Christian, who are you?” You should be able answer with confidence, “I am in Christ.”

  • April 28 – You and God: You are a valuable person made in God’s image.
  • May 5 – You and your Body: You are both body and soul and both are good.
  • May 12 – You and Sin: You are “unfinished.”
  • May 19 – You and God’s Church: You are part of a family.
  • May 25 – You and the World: You are for good.
  • June 2 – You and God’s Glory: You are for glory.

I am looking forward to seeing what God will do in our lives through His Word in the next 6 weeks.

Pastor Robert

Why You Can Believe the Bible

“I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eye witnesses during the lifetime of other eye witnesses.  They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophesies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.”

Dr. Voddie Baucham

On Justification by faith alone in Christ alone.

The book of Romans is strengthening our foundation by washing away the sand we stand on and leaving the solid bedrock of Christ alone.
“People sometimes wonder what they must do to justify them- selves before God. The answer is that there is nothing we can do except believe. This is where Christianity differs from every other religion, from every merely human attempt to attain righteousness…Thus the only thing we can do is put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. If we trust in him and his justifying work on the cross, then God will declare us righteous. We are acceptable to God, not by keep- ing his law but by trusting in the only man who ever did—Jesus Christ…There is an important reason for this distinction between faith and works—a reason that helps us to understand the purpose of our justification in the plan of God. If justification comes only by faith, then the biblical way of justification ensures that all of the glory goes to God alone. If we are justified by the saving work of Jesus rather than by our own work, then all the praise for our salvation goes to him and not to us. Thus the goal of justification—like every other aspect of the gospel—is the glory of God.”
Justification, by Philip Ryken

The Glory of God in Creation

As Kingfishers Catch Fire


As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.